Pouring Through Memories
by Susi Döring Preston
Yom Hazikaron, 2020
Tonight begins Yom Hazikaron- Israel’s memorial day for fallen soldiers. Like many who have loved and lost here, one cannot escape the power of this somber holiday. Here, we accept Memorial Day by standing through the wail of a siren, thinking of our loved ones we have lost, those who wore uniforms and those who were victims of terror attacks. It would be rare not to have been affected by one or the other. It’s Israel, we all know someone.
All week, I have been pouring through memories of Tsiki Eyal, staring at his youthful face on the screen, trying to put together some photos for a Yom Hazikkaron talk I will zoom in for tomorrow. I watch the movements of his body in the video shorts he sent me, the jerk of his neck, how the corner of his mouth is ever so slightly crooked as he spoke to me on the screen. I remember the sharpness of his shoulder and his smooth skin. These memories not only make him alive to me again, they also remind me of a time when we were invincible. Watching these videos, I become almost envious of the Susi in the videos, the Susi before the deaths, completely unaware that soon, she would be battling the monster of grief.
It was weeks ago I when I sat with my daughter on our patio, both of our feet propped up on the plant boxes, explaining to her one more time how much her Opa loved geraniums as we admired our own flourishing ones in the sunshine-when she brought up Tsiki.
It’s not unheard of in our household to put two and two together, given that their deaths were within a month of one another. The innocence of her age brought her to fantasize into a "What If" game, "what if Tsiki was still alive..", she let the thought escape her lips, "What if you were…"
That’s not how the story goes, I interrupt her- we all miss Tsiki. We will always miss Tsiki.
It was within that same week that we brought our family together to welcome our newest member into the tribe. We all sat around our long rectangular table together and I couldn’t help but appreciate that in that moment, our family is more eclectic than it’s ever been: Dave’s parents and sister, my mom and my own newly found sister and brother in law, and Tsiki’s parents, Tirtze and Moshe.
It is with great gravity that we named our baby Eyal, after Tsiki. But this is how the story goes. And Tsiki’s legacy is in us continuing our own story.
As Yom Hazikkaron creeps up on my newsfeed. And we all find a new normal in commemorating our fallen during this abnormal time, I see Tsiki’s best friends remembering him and I am reminded of how broken we were when he left us. The truth is that we all remain broken in different ways from losing him. You never move on from the death of a loved one, you just carry it in different ways throughout your life. We will always miss Tsiki.
In Israel, one is rarely alone. That’s what makes it unique, it’s one big family. We yell at our leadership, we yell at one another, we share bellyfuls of laughter together and days like today, we all cry together. This is how we get through the harshness of the Middle East.
This year, we don’t get to visit our fallen in the cemeteries, and we will miss the comfort in being together with friends and family during this time, but as the national anthem rang across our television screens only moments ago- to mark the ending of the annual memorial service at the Wailing Wall- we walked onto our patio, to see all of our neighbors standing on their patios, and the air around us filled with the echoes of the neighborhood singing the Hatikva together, finding a way to staying connected.